Egypt detains Indian climate activist marching to COP 27 amid concerns over 'greenwashing'
The Egyptian authorities briefly detained an Indian climate activist marching on foot from Cairo to Sharm El-Sheikh, the host city of the COP 27 climate summit, and a lawyer who came to assist him, as the spotlight on Egypt's abysmal human rights record grows. Both men were released on Monday. The authorities detained activist Ajit Rajagopal on Sunday as he marched to raise awareness against carbon emissions, local independent Darb news outlet reported.
Rajagopal was heading to Suez, one of his stops towards Sharm El-Sheikh, to attend the UN Climate Change Conference (COP 27) on 6 November as part of an initiative named “March for Our Planet". The activist is said to be currently at the Indian embassy in Cairo.
Rajagopal was stopped and apprehended by security officers at a checkpoint, the Egyptian Commission for Freedoms and Rights said in a statement. After lawyer Makarious Lahzy arrived at the scene, upon Rajagopal’s request, for legal assistance, he too was arrested, the statement added. About 24 hours later, Lahzy was released, shortly followed by his Indian friend and client, according to Darb.
It remains unknown where they were held during that time. COP 27 will be attended by world leaders, scientists and businessmen to confer on the state of global progress against climate change, but Egypt's detention of thousands of political prisoners, journalists, and activists has led to accusations of 'greenwashing' against the regime of Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi.
Many have also raised concerns about the lack of space for climate protests and activism usually expected at these summits. In August, a group of civil society organisations critical of the regime were denied access to the congregation via a covert registration process, The Guardian reported at the time.
Earlier this month, a group of UN-appointed experts criticised Egypt for imposing restrictions that would jeopardise the "safety and full participation" of individuals and organisations wishing to attend the international climate summit.
The Swedish climate activist complained that the space for civil society at the Sharm el-Sheikh summit due to take place between 6 and 18 November is "extremely limited", during the launch of her latest book at London's Southbank Centre.